Christmas Eve 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 24, 2019
Luke 2:1-20

 

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Angels, angels everywhere.  This time of year there are a lot of depictions of angels all around us.  Cute little preschoolers dressed in white robes with sparkling wings and halos for the school Christmas performance; the angel on top the tree, angel ornaments, light up angels in the yard, angels on greeting cards; so many angels.  Some are cute, some are funny, a few look mighty…but just so many angels.

In Martin Luther’s morning and evening prayer we pray, “Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”

We pray to God for angelic help, we talk about angels a lot at Christmas, but other than children in costumes and ornaments, I don’t believe I have ever seen or heard from a heavenly angel.  And I am ok with that.  It seems that angels bring dramatic change.

An angel appears to John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, and tells him that Elizabeth, his barren, elderly wife is going to have a child.  Due to Zechariah’s doubt he is struck mute until the baby is born and Zechariah writes, “His name is John.”

The Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she is going to conceive and give birth to a son and she will call his name Jesus.  This is radical change for the young virgin.  She goes from being an anonymous nobody from Nazareth to being the Mother of God incarnate.

The angel appears to Joseph in a dream to tell him to take his pregnant fiancée as his wife because the baby she is carrying is from the Holy Spirit.  The angel will appear to Joseph again to warn him of Herod’s plot to kill the baby Jesus, and Joseph immediately flees with his family to Egypt in the middle of the night.  An angel appears once more to Joseph in Egypt to let him know it is okay to return to Israel after Herod the Great’s death.

An angel appears to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem.  The angel rocks their world.  A Savior has been born; Christ the Lord.  Then an army of angels sings praises to God.

Angels dramatically change things, they are quite disruptive.  So I am thinking that having an angel appear to me is really not anything I want.  I am comfortable with the status quo.  Just leave me alone in my normal little life.

The word “angel” is interesting, however, because to us it means a heavenly being in a white robe with wings and a halo.  But the word in Greek simply means messenger.  Now, an angel of the Lord is a heavenly spirit who comes to bring a message or to help and protect you.  We are not sure if they really have wings and a halo, although at the tomb after Jesus’ resurrection the angels are dressed in white.  We know they are frightening because they generally have to tell people, “Don’t be afraid.”  In the Bible, angels of the Lord are messengers bringing a communication from God. That is what we see them do with Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.

            And while these encounters with God’s messengers are certainly not as intense as an angel of the Lord appearing to Mary, they are still important.  If the message is from God’s Word, it is no less true than what the Angel Gabriel tells Mary.  God has sent His angels to you.

You likely will never in your life have an encounter with a heavenly spirit bringing you a message directly from God, but that does not mean God has nothing to say to you.  There have certainly been earthly messengers of God bringing to you the Good News of Jesus’ birth, of His life, His death and His resurrection.  You have had earthly messengers of God bring you the Lord’s Word about sin and repentance and forgiveness.  Who are these earthly messengers bringing you a message from the Lord?

Parents?  Grandparents? Pastor?  Teacher?  Friend? Family member?  Who has spoken to you the Word of God?  The message also can come through the written word; through the Holy Bible and faithful devotional writings.

And while these encounters with God’s messengers are certainly not as intense as an angel of the Lord appearing to Mary, they are still important.  If the message is from God’s Word, it is no less true than what the Angel Gabriel tells Mary.  God has sent His angels to you.

And this is troubling, isn’t it?  You and I have received many messages from the Lord from many different messengers. Now, Zechariah and Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds receive a message from the Lord and they respond in faith and do what they are told to do.  They have remarkable faith.  How do you and I respond?

You and I receive a message from the Lord through His Word and we want to believe that we can take it or leave it.  We want to believe that God’s Word to us is optional; that God’s commandments are just old fashioned ideas; suggestions for living from a long time ago, in a place far, far away.  We want to believe that God’s Word is not our authority but rather our authority is our feelings.  We hear a message from God and want to ask, “What does that have to do with me?”

God’s Word is God’s word whether it is spoken by the Archangel Gabriel, or by a parent, teacher, or pastor.  Just because a heavenly angel of the Lord hasn’t appeared to you personally, it does not make God’s Word optional for you.

Tonight, as you hear the message of the angels proclaiming Jesus’ birth to the Bethlehem shepherds, know that the message is also for you, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus Christ is your savior.  God took on human flesh and was born of the Virgin in order to take ownership of your sin and pay the price for you.  Jesus has redeemed you from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. He has given you eternal life with Him in the heavenly city.  This message from God’s Word brings dramatic transformation.  It changes everything.  You are a new creation in Christ.  You are born again of water and the spirit.  The baby born in Bethlehem is your savior.  He is your Lord.  He is your King and you are His servant.

You are not in charge.  No longer can you live just for yourself because you now have Christ’s name and promise on you.  You are called to turn away from sin; to sorrow over your sin, to repent of your sin, and return to the Lord your God.  You are a natural born sinner and it is easy to fall into ongoing, unrepentant sin.  Tonight, you who have grown comfortable in your sin, are called to repent.  This is a radical call for you to no longer live as a citizen of this world, but to live in your new identity as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.

You are called by messengers of God to live in love and service to others. You are called to love and care for others as you love and care for yourself.  You are called to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Love is messy.  Love takes a lot of time and energy and patience.  Love often is all giving and no receiving.  It is hard to love and care for others.  That is the kind of love that God has for you in Jesus who has come to earth to forgive you all your sins.  Let the love that God has for you in Christ overflow to those around you.

Jesus comes as the light shining in the darkness.  In Christ you are the light of the world, driving back the darkness with God’s love; pushing back the gloom with the message that through the baby born in Bethlehem God and sinners are reconciled.

You are called to be a sponge for evil.  Instead of returning evil for evil, or anger for anger, you return good for evil, and kindness for anger.  If someone is evil to you; you return love.  That way, instead of increasing the evil in the world, you reduce it, little by little; one interaction after another.

This message from the Lord is such amazing Good News.  The sin which you inherited from Adam and that which you have committed since has been covered.  You have been redeemed.  Tonight is a night for great celebration, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her king.  Amen

 

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